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San Diego State University

Fowler College of
Business Administration

SDSU Alum Gives Back Through Clinton Foundation Internship

Former President Bill Clinton shaking hands with Ethan Mendelson

For most finance majors, landing a position in New York City means a job on Wall Street.

Recent SDSU grad Ethan Mendelson ('13, financial services) found work in the Big Apple, but his office was located quite a ways north of the famed Financial District.

On September 9, 2013, Mendelson started an internship with the Clinton Foundation in their Harlem office. "I told myself that I wanted to explore the non-profit humanitarian sector before I settled into a career in either corporate or personal finance," said Mendelson, who is a native of Portland, Oregon. "One day I was perusing the SDSU Career Services webpage when the internship posting from the Clinton Foundation caught my eye. I decided right then I was going all in and I applied for it. It was a stroke of luck to find it when I did!"

I told myself that I wanted to explore the non-profit humanitarian sector before I settled into a career in either corporate or personal finance

The application process is fairly lengthy: In addition to a current resume, potential interns to the foundation must include a 250-to-500 word essay discussing "how the internship relates to your objectives, expectations and your future goals", a short biography, a writing sample, and two letters of recommendation (one of which came from Dr. Gangaram Singh, interim dean of SDSU's College of Business).

After he passed his application process, Mendelson went through an intensive interview process via teleconference by four different departments and the head of the internship program for the foundation. While he was offered a position in three of the departments, he chose the one offered in the special operations department where his title was "Immediate Office of the President Intern." "I worked with a team of aides who directly support the ongoing commitments and plans of President Clinton in his day-to-day tasks," explained Mendelson. "As one might imagine, my responsibilities were highly variable because of this."

My experience at the Clinton Foundation has allowed me to explore a variety of different ideas, areas and industries first hand and that experience, along with my education at SDSU, have helped to shape my anticipated future

Since his internship ended on December 21, 2013, Mendelson has been living in Portland and determining his ultimate career path though he is confident that a career in finance is in his future. "I am looking at positions that range from asset management to management consulting and I am in the process of setting up interviews on the West Coast," he said. "My experience at the Clinton Foundation has allowed me to explore a variety of different ideas, areas and industries first hand and that experience, along with my education at SDSU, have helped to shape my anticipated future."

This led Mendelson to offer today's SDSU students some career advice: "If you are involved in making a career decision, do not agonize about it in your head – get out there and test the waters first hand! Join career-focused on-campus organizations, spend a week in a job shadow program, apply for summer internships, or do volunteer work to see what certain professions are really like. The hallmark of good decisions come when we start getting out of our head and into real-world experience and information."

If you are involved in making a career decision, do not agonize about it in your head – get out there and test the waters first hand!